Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East: Omani duo looks to impress
Two Omani teenagers – Al Faisal al Zubair and Khalid al Wahaibi – are on a mission. The duo is the future of motorsports in the sultanate and has displayed encouraging potential in the ongoing Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East that began in Bahrain last month.
Al Faisal and Khalid made impressive starts in Bahrain and they now hope to better their performances in the second round (third and fourth races) of the series, which will be held at the Dubai Autodrome on Friday and Saturday. The series itself will celebrate a milestone as it will host its 100th race in its ninth year.
Al Faisal is the more experienced of the duo and after a season that saw him compete in the highly-respected Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup, the 19 year old is considered to among the title contenders this season.
As for the 17 year old Khalid, it is his debut series and he has impressed with podium finishes in the rookie category and bronze class in Bahrain.
After the first two races, Al Faisal is second in the overall championship standings behind Britain's Tom Oliphant and the Omani is looking forward for another successful outing in Dubai.
“Dubai Autodrome is something I am familiar with. I love the track as I had some solid results in the past. My aim would be to continue with the good pace and earn maximum points and claim the championship lead,” said Al Faisal.
“I need to keep my focus and be consistent, which will help me get closer to my goal of finishing overall on podium this season. It is going to be challenging but I am ready for it,” he said.
Khalid was satisfied with the start he made in Bahrain when he had two top-ten finishes and believed that he could improve.
“I had a strong start in both the races in Manama on my debut. To race on a Formula One circuit and come up with good speed has given me the confidence that I can do better. I am looking to improve my results in Dubai,” said Khalid.
“I am confident that the more track time I get, the better I will become. The track time will give me a good understanding on how to use my tyres, a key issue. It is also my debut at the Dubai Autodrome and I am looking forward,” said the American British Academy (ABA) student.
An international grid featuring 18 drivers from ten countries, including special guest and former baseball legend and racer C J Wilson from the US, will compete on Friday in the 99th race, followed by the landmark centennial fight on Saturday.
The successful one-make series is credited with supporting motor racing in the Middle East and over the past eight consecutive seasons it has dominated the regional motorsport scene.
Under the watchful eye of founder and manager, Walter Lechner, new standards have been set and local talent guided onto the world stage to produce an enviable list of past winners.
Now in its ninth season, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East remains the only regional championship backed by a manufacturer and its future looks brighter than ever.
Its impact has been huge, accelerating the sport regionally and globally by offering a pathway to the top level of the sport for regional drivers, such as Abdulaziz Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Zaid Ashkanani (Kuwait) and Oman’s Al Faisal.
Al Faisal said, “This championship gave me the opportunity to get the experience I needed to develop as a driver and challenge internationally last season. I owe much to the years of dedication from Walter Lechner, Porsche and those who have supported this championship.
“I have directly benefitted from their efforts and I am proud to be amongst a new breed of drivers from the region that have emerged from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
“I’ve finished third on the podium in the opening two races but nothing would make me happier than standing on the top step of the podium in the centennial race. Although, I know many other drivers will be thinking the same.”
Lechner said, “It’s remarkable to think that a decade ago the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was just an ambitious vision shared by Porsche and Lechner Racing.
“Being the first comes with challenges and remaining at the forefront is even tougher but thanks to the support of Porsche, our partners, motorsport federations and race tracks in the region we’re set to celebrate our 100th race. The Middle East needed a professional championship of its own and it has one to be proud of.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East consists of six race weekends with 12 races over a period of six months.
Following the second round the championship returns to Dubai for round three, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for fourth round. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix.